When I signed up for the über-geeky SLTcamp in November I thought it was a good idea.
When it approached, I thought it was a terrible idea.
I am in favour of a knowledge based curriculum, am sick of fads in education, am not a big fan of promoting groupwork, or focussing on skills, or learn to learn. By “not a big fan” I mean “believe are completely wrong”.
I also regularly turn off the #SLTchat hashtag on Sunday evenings because some tweets remind me of the very worst aspects of Leadership Group members. The law of averages suggested I would run into some of these views over the weekend.
I’m also argumentative, cantankerous even. And I have no patience when I am sure I’m right – which is most of the time (even if I later reflect I might not have been). I also have an ego, and SLTcamp banned egos. Plus I looked down the list of participants and it wasn’t hard to discover that some of them believed in things that I’d thrown out or dismissed in the past.
So I considered the arguments I was likely to get into and I went anyway.
On the first night, I did a brief presentation asking that SLTcamp (who had said they would support a charity) support CDH-UK, a charity that supported my partner and I when we had our first child (who was diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia). The participants were really generous and we raised over £400, which is astounding. I’m very grateful. I also felt a bit more relaxed.
The teachmeet followed. I liked the methodical checklists that can be used for Heads of Department, and I took that back, and I started thinking about a number of things. That teachmeet will probably lead to a staff book group that our Lead Teachers are likely to launch this week (thanks Debbie of @teachertweaks). Some people are doing amazing things in their schools and the best part of this was having a couple of days to talk to people who had ideas, or had done something positive in their schools, to explore how we could transfer this. In fact, the teachmeet was of exceptional quality and I felt guilty for not preparing my presentation much better.
On the second day, after warm up activities (I don’t like these things, nor flaming salsa dancing [this occurred on the Saturday night], both of which I participated in – I might even have enjoyed them despite trying hard not to) it was like a long conversation. I was quite proud that I only had three extended arguments – I certainly managed to avoid seeking them. It was useful to reinforce some of my opinions and my school’s direction, and there were a number of conversations that germinated thoughts and will add to discussions.
As I said, I had three arguments. I just asked questions in one and in one the other person said “I think what we’ve learnt is that different things work in different schools” – which is obviously true but on behaviour (that we were talking about) I don’t agree with that. I think measures can be different in different schools, but I don’t think an aim of lessons should be “to engage”. If it was twitter I would probably have pushed this point. The last one was over knowledge/ skills with Graham of Iris. He gave me his card to continue the discussion – something I will do at some point.
The two ‘out of the box’ things I took away were from the Friday teachmeet, but this doesn’t mean I’m saying the rest of it was useless – far from it – the whole weekend was useful as a part of my personal direction, as part of the rich variety of CPD, debates and discussions I pick up from a variety of places and knits together. I don’t really believe in ‘out of the box’ solutions – if things were that easy everyone would be doing them – there is a need to consider context and starting points, and to prioritise.
So I learnt a lot, some of which is difficult to quantify. Here are the things that are easier to write down:
- The knowledge/ skills debate is alive and kicking and I need to get better about making the case for a knowledge based curriculum – I haven’t practiced this enough so it will be the subject of a forthcoming blog
- I can talk to people about their skills-based school without being rude (I think)
- I’m not very good at paying attention when I don’t agree with someone I barely know, so sometimes miss out on learning from those I disagree with
- A number of people really are hung up on national curriculum levels and think their existence is positive – that debate is not won and replacing them is going to be painful in some places
- Some people do believe that poor behaviour is solved by engaging teaching
- That the changes in SEN legislation might not cause the avalanche of workload that I previously thought, so I need to go back and read again and consider the implications
- Various things on important aspects of pedagogy, particularly on questioning: I need to read Harry Fletcher-Wood’s blogposts again in combination with Joe Kirby and Daisy Christodoulou
- I must read Leverage Leadership and this must be next on my list (it was mentioned so many times)
- Ark schools might be the type of school I really rate and want to work in (or create a school and ethos similar to)
- I definitely want to be a Head, and I’ll never feel ready, but I’ll build the bridge as I cross it
- Primary schools aren’t always as different to secondaries as many seem to suggest
- Not having wifi is helpful to thinking and focus
- I don’t understand how @mrlockyer is always positive and appears happy to everyone and in every activity or discussion
- Educational blogs are making a significant difference in a number of schools, and are increasingly listened to (the ones listed above were all mentioned, and @johntomsett’s was also mentioned repeatedly)
I really appreciated the opportunity to talk through things with people who have done them well (or badly) and hence explore our thinking. Mel of @teachertweaks was particularly engaging and was one of many conversations I wanted to continue. There were loads – I was about to try to list them, but I can’t. In any case, the conversations have continued on twitter since and I’m sure will continue to.
Would I go again? I think so. I really don’t like the 4 to a room bunk beds or being exhausted on Monday morning after the weekend, but apart from that, it was brilliant.
I also haven’t written up the session I said I would yet. I guess I better get on that. Thank you to Stephen and Sarah for the astonishing levels of commitment to other peoples’ development for the benefit of our profession.